Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to the joints. It commonly affects the joints of the hands, feet, knees, elbows, shoulders, and hips. It also affects other organs like the Heart, Lungs, Eyes, and Kidneys. All kinds of exercises benefit RA patients in different ways. It is important to discuss with your doctor what exercises are safe and likely to provide maximum benefit based on the joints affected and overall disease activity. As a general rule, 30-45 minutes of exercise, 4-5 times a week is adequate.
In an interaction with Zee News English, Dr Siddharth Shah, Consultant Orthopaedics and Joint Replacement Surgery, S L Raheja Hospital, Mahim shares all about rheumatoid arthritis and to
How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect The Body?
Dr Siddharth says, “Inflammation causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Longstanding disease results in irreversible joint damage and deformity. As a result, the affected individual cannot use their joints for routine body functions. Involvement of multiple joints and symmetrical affliction is typical of this disease. Another characteristic feature of this condition is the morning stiffness, which is usually relieved after about 30-60 minutes of physical activity. RA also causes loss of muscle mass resulting in weakness. It can also result in accelerated bone loss causing Osteoporosis.”
Can Exercise Help Relieve The Pain And Inflammation?
“Regular exercise positively impacts joint function in RA. It helps to overcome stiffness and swelling and improves flexibility. Strengthening exercises have been known to reduce inflammation. In addition, they also help to counter the Cachectic (Cachexia: loss of muscle mass) effect of RA and improve muscle strength. Weight-bearing exercises improve bone density, highlights Dr Siddharth.
Exercises To Reduce Inflammation And Pain For Arthritis
Here are a few simple everyday exercises shared by Dr Siddharth for people with RA:
1. Stretching exercises: Stretching works on the joint capsule and helps improve joint flexibility and overcome stiffness. These can be specific exercises for the affected joints or part of practices like yoga, tai-chi, or Pilates.
– Hand and wrist are some of the most common joints affected due to RA. Use one hand to gently bend backwards the extended wrist and fingers of the other hand. Hold for a few seconds and then bend the wrist and fingers downwards in the opposite direction. Perform 10-15 repetitions at a time.
– Another useful stretching exercise is for the feet and calf. Lean against a wall with both your arms raised and rested against it. Gently slide one leg backwards and kneel partially at the knees. You would sense the calf and the tendon of the heel stretching. Hold for about 5 seconds and perform 10 repetitions for each side.
– Similar to the above, stretches can be performed for different parts of the body. Remember, not to overdo it. Stop, if it causes severe pain.
2. Low-impact weight-bearing exercises: Walking, stair-climbing, or low-impact cardio exercises help to maintain bone and muscle strength. The low-impact nature of these activities protects the already vulnerable joints in these patients from additional damage.
3. Resistance exercises: These exercises help to increase muscle strength and can be performed by using elastic bands or weights. Caution must be exercised to prevent injuries while doing weights.
4. Water exercises: Swimming and water aerobics can be very effective in RA patients. Exercising in water provides the advantage of working the joints with reduced load or impact.